What Is Tesla Sentry Mode and How It Works: An Ultimate Guide

By Muhammad Hassan •  Updated: 04/23/22 •  13 min read

Have you ever heard of a car company selling “peace of mind”? 

Tesla is selling just the thing in the form of Sentry Mode. 

Cars have been subject to vandalism and theft for a long time. Shit happens!

Culprits may get away with that on a normal car, but when it comes to Tesla, they aren’t going anywhere.

After extensive research, I have come up with this conclusive guide to let you know everything about Tesla Sentry Mode. 

Let’s dive into it.

Tesla Sentry Mode: Protecting Your Vehicle

Credit to Teslarati

When you leave your car unattended, security is the biggest concern that you have regarding your car.

According to the FBI, motor theft occurred every 40.8 seconds in the United States in 2017.

Tesla has paid serious attention to that concern by adding a security layer (Sentry Mode) to their vehicles that guards them against theft or vandalism attempts. 

Think of it as another protection layer from Tesla like their Valet Mode

The Sentry Mode feature was first debuted in Tesla’s Model 3, Model S, and Model X in 2017. Later, the Model Y was also equipped with it.

Question is, what happens to a car when Sentry Mode is enabled? 

If you enable Sentry Mode when your car is left unattended, it enters standby mode and starts recording videos of the nearby environment via external cameras in your car. 

These are the same cameras that Tesla uses for Autopilot.

So if an object gets nearby or your car senses someone leaning on it, it will go from standby to alert mode, displaying a message on the touch screen that the cameras are recording.

If the threat is severe like somebody trying to damage or break into your car, this will trigger the alarm state. 

Your car will ring an alarm and play the music at max volume through the car’s audio system, and the touch screen brightness will increase. 

Also, you won’t go unaware in a situation like that. Your Tesla app will pop up a notification on your smartphone that your car is in trouble.

The coolest thing about Sentry Mode is that if you insert a USB drive before enabling it, a recorded video of the incident can be downloaded, which begins 10 minutes before the threat is detected.

I mean, you got the culprit with proof. Easy!

Watch this YouTube walkthrough of Sentry Mode from Cf Tesla to have a better idea of what it is.

Timestamps are available below for better detail!


Tesla Sentry Mode Features

Credit to Teslarati

Tesla Sentry Mode is going to blow your mind with some of its dope features. Let’s discuss them one by one.

Live Camera

A live camera allows you to monitor your car’s surroundings remotely through your smartphone. 

You can watch the environment around your car to confirm its safety when you come back to it.

Let’s say you parked your car in shade and now the sun is above. You can just check through your app whether you need to move your car from there or not.

Also, you can honk, flash, and talk through the car’s speaker if it’s enabled. 

This live camera will need Premium Connectivity and works with iOS and Android devices which have Tesla app version 4.2.1 or greater.

How to Activate:

Tap Controls > Safety > View Live Camera via Mobile App on your car’s touch screen.

Tap Controls > Safety & Security > View Live Camera via Mobile App on your car’s touch screen.

 Tap Security > Sentry Mode > View live camera.

In case you have privacy concerns regarding the live camera feature, this is end-to-end encrypted, says Tesla.

Talkback Function: Using Darth Vader’s Voice

Credit to evannex

With the live camera enabled, you can make your Tesla talk to nearby people using this cool talkback function.

A moment for the fans—it has Darth Vader’s voice. My Star Wars heart is happy too!

To make it work, Tesla has installed an extra speaker under their cars as part of the pedestrian warning required by NHTSA.

This feature has helped many Tesla owners against vandalization by issuing a verbal warning, and thanks to Tesla, this has lowered the number of cases.

Try saying “You would be wise to surrender.” It will scare the s*it out of those morons. 

How to Use

Open your Tesla app:

Check out this video by the DaddysTired22 YouTube channel to see how it works:

Now that you have this cool feature in your Tesla, just don’t try to be the Dark Lord.

How to Operate Sentry Mode

On your touch screen:

Go to Controls > Safety & Security > Sentry Mode and turn it on/off.

On Your Tesla App:

Go to Security > Sentry Mode and turn it on/off.

You can also enable Sentry Mode via voice command

For Model X and Model S:

For Model 3:

3 Customizations Available for Sentry Mode:

1. Exclude Home

Sentry Mode doesn’t work at the location you set as home.

2. Exclude Work

You can add a work location the same way you add a home location. Follow the same steps.

3. Exclude Favorites 

You can also add a custom location in your favorites list as you add home and work. Again, follow the same steps for home and work.

Standby, Alert & Alarm State

In Sentry Mode, your Tesla shifts through three stages.


When you enable Sentry Mode, your vehicle automatically goes on standby, monitoring all its surroundings through its external cameras. 


When Sentry Mode detects a possible threat, it shifts to alert status.

It triggers the following functions:


Alarm status is enabled by Sentry Mode for major threats. When in the alarm state:

CAUTION: Sentry Mode may not activate the alarm in all situations involving damage to the vehicle. (Source: Tesla)

Things to Remember

Take note of these when you enable Sentry Mode on your Tesla car. (Source: Tesla)


The dashcam feature is only available when you insert a USB drive into one of your car’s USB ports.

Tesla recommends using the glove box port to minimize energy consumption and maximize security.

To Enable Dashcam,

Go to Controls > Safety > Dashcam and select:

To Format USB drive:

Viewing Video Recordings

You can watch the videos recorded via Sentry Mode when your Tesla is in Park Mode.

To Watch the Clips:

To Delete the Clips:

To Watch the Clips on a Computer Device:

The footage is overridden every hour unless you save it manually.

4 Videos are Recorded for Each Clip (One from Each Camera).

To Note:

Issues Regarding Tesla Sentry Mode Owners Faced

Sentry Mode has been an effective anti-theft system, but owners have raised concerns regarding various issues.

Let’s discuss them one by one.

Fast Battery Drain

While Sentry Mode protects your vehicle from theft activity, it doesn’t come for free. 

You have to pay for it in terms of the battery. 

This might sound idiotic, but according to Tesla users who have conducted some research on their cars, it consumes about 7% of battery in 24 hours.

This may not look huge, but think of it on a yearly basis. Seven percent a day for 365 days costs you a lot of extra recharges.

A Tesla owner calculated the loss, which turns out to be $920 per year in terms of battery loss just to keep Sentry Mode on. 

Another research to support this claim showed that the Model 3 consumes 29% battery in four days with Sentry Mode on and 6% battery in seven days with Sentry Mode off.

This also turns out to be 7% of battery drain per day. Also, a mile per hour of the range is lost with Sentry Mode on.

So technically, after almost 13 days of constant use of a car, Sentry Mode will drain the battery completely. 

Check out this video from the Tesla Joy YouTube channel to watch the complete research:

Sentry Mode uses cameras and audio systems, and the energy that is required to power them is sourced from the batteries. 

Similar to other features like heated seats, Camp Mode, etc. that use the same battery, Sentry Mode takes its cut. 

This sounds problematic, but if you see this in a bigger picture, all this money is worth spending to save your vehicle from theft or vandalization. 

USB Reliability

To use the footage recorded by the cameras in Sentry Mode, you need to store it in a USB drive. 

What if the footage doesn’t work? I’ll be pissed off.

Issues have been reported regarding the USB footage not working properly.

This might be due to several reasons:

Try to catch up with the requirements issued by Tesla to benefit from the Sentry Mode feature. 

Tesla has also started providing USB drives for Sentry Mode in their Model 3 and its sister Model Y to solve that problem. 

The amount of storage you need depends on your usage of Sentry Mode. You can upgrade to an SSD drive anytime if the default 64GB device is not enough for you.

Privacy Issues

A lot of privacy concerns have been raised regarding Tesla’s Sentry Mode.

The exterior cameras of the car record a lot of footage to run Sentry Mode. 

This footage is recorded to save you from illegal activity, but most of it is of the cars or the bystanders in proximity.

Also, the dashcam records a lot of footage on the road when Sentry Mode is enabled.

This has raised privacy concerns that the driver is under constant observation. 

Does Tesla have their hands on these videos? 

Well, the company says that these videos are end-to-end encrypted and cannot be accessed by Tesla.

These videos. however, can be used as evidence or insurance liability once they’re accessible by the government or car companies.

Also, many thefts have been recorded through TeslaCam in its proximity. The footage has been helpful as solid evidence to track down the criminals.

So “Is tesla sentry mode a threat to your privacy?” I’d say no, unless you’re personally indulging in illegal activities.

Final Thoughts

This concludes our ultimate guide to Tesla Sentry Mode—a feature that gives “peace of mind” to Tesla owners.

Knowing your $50,000+ car’s situation all the time when you’ve parked it somewhere outside feels like a blessing. If you’re a car enthusiast, you’d know that.

This is one of the features that makes Tesla a distinguished car manufacturer that cares about its customers.

I’ve laid down everything you need to know about this feature. If there is anything you’d like to add, perhaps a personal experience, hop in the comment section.

Muhammad Hassan

Engineer by trade and writer by passion, Hassan is an automotive enthusiast who thinks EVs are the future. At TTU, he discusses the coolest features and products Model 3 owners look for -- so they can better experience their cars. In his free time, he enjoys tea, reading, and listening to podcasts.

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